LAND O'LAKES — After dinner, Shannon Augustonovich filled the bathtub with warm, foamy, rose-scented water. The mirror by the sink steamed over.
It was bath time.
For her pet pig.
Potbellied pigs need baths every few weeks to keep their skin moisturized, she explained. Two weeks after Augustonovich and her family brought baby Bootsie home from a nearby farm, they made the first attempt to wash the newest addition to their clan.
"It was horrible," said Augustonovich, 32.
Bootsie's squeals pierced the ears of Augustonovich's children as they played outside that day. The pig went dirty.
The second time was a semi-success. Augustonovich was able to wash Bootsie only because the pig was too small to leap out of the bathtub, despite her best attempts.
But now Bootsie is 6 weeks old and has grown to the size of a small cat, plenty big enough to jump out of the tub.
No one knew what to expect.
The pig stood quietly in several inches of bathwater until Augustonovich dropped a foamy palmful on her pet's short black spikes of hair.
There were squeals. Loud ones.
Augustonovich's daughters, Taylee, 7, and Tristan, 11, giggled from their respective perches on the bathroom sink and the toilet seat.
Their brother Tyler, 13, was off somewhere talking to a girl on the phone and their father, Daniel, ate spaghetti and watched the news while the squeals echoed through the house.
Daniel Augustonovich, 32, was closer to "the first pig."
That was Cutie, a potbelly the family adopted in 2004. She disappeared from the fenced-in backyard two years later — stolen, the family believes.
Bootsie will be microchipped in case they ever need to prove she's their pig.
"We miss Cutie," Shannon Augustonovich said as she tried to calm the screeching Bootsie. "It took us two years to even think about getting another pig.
"Cutie loved bubble baths."
In the small mobile home bathroom, Bootsie squealed as she endured the sudsy water splashed on her haunches. Thankfully, the nearest neighbor was half an acre away.
"You're so faking it," Augustonovich said to the pig.
Bootsie tried to lunge out of the tub before Augustonovich nabbed her. There was a big splash, and then laughter.
"Who's wetter, you or me?" Augustonovich asked.
It was a tough call.
Eventually, this soaking wet pig will be litter-trained, like Cutie was. For now, the family cleans up the Bootsie surprises they find on the floor.
They laugh when Bootsie chases Jasmine, the family's jealous border collie, and coo when she pokes her little tongue out while she sleeps.
Cutie never did that.
The bath was over in less than five minutes. Augustonovich wrapped Bootsie in an old white towel. The piglet promptly fell asleep.
Taylee crawled onto her mother's bed with the slumbering Bootsie in one hand and a Popsicle in the other.
In her sleep, the pig sucked on the pillow next to the girl's head and made little kissing noises, just like Cutie used to do.
"She's telling you, 'I love you,' " Augustonovich told her daughter.
Bootsie slept on the bed that night until Daniel came in and moved her to a pile of towels on top of a heating pad in the couple's bathroom.
The pet pig would get a proper bed for Christmas.
Bootsie woke in the middle of the night, demanding her bottle of special formula. Bootsie prefers it to the green beans and carrots left daily in her food dish.
Augustonovich slumped out of bed to feed the piglet while the rest of the family slept.
Helen Anne Travis can be reached at email@example.com or (813) 435-7312.